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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: August 13, 2014, 09:32:23 AM
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: August 13, 2014, 08:40:58 AM

As I have been hammering for several years now, the Reps are utterly divided on foreign affairs and much of the core attitude that used to underlie Rep political strength on foreign affairs is gone.  With good reason the American people do not trust the competence of either party to lead this nation in war.  Which is a real big fg problem because it sure looks like a big war is coming!

Looked at through a political lens, Hillary's strategy is very interesting, potentially quite dangerous for us. 

Riddle me this:  How will the Reps respond to it?  More hawkish?  More Dovish?  How will each of the potential Rep nominees respond to it?  The American voter?  Given the American voter's well-earned distrust and looming war, is he/she likely to go for untested neophytes like Cruz or Paul? or Rubio? or?

(Oh and by the way, how does it square with what each of us thinks is best for American and the world?  This probably would be better answered in the Foreign Policy thread where I also posted it.)

Tangent:  I wonder why no one seems to note that Hillary's recent distancing from Baraq by pointing out that she, Petraeus, and Sec Def Paneta also supported arming the FSA in the early days of Syria, is also exactly what Sen. John McCain and Lindsay Graham advocated , , ,
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary's Foreign Policy on: August 13, 2014, 07:40:26 AM
The Libs and Progs are going to have trouble with this , , , (see e.g. )

The Message From That Hillary Interview
She would be the best-prepared president on foreign policy since George H.W. Bush.
By William A. Galston
Aug. 12, 2014 6:57 p.m. ET

Jeffrey Goldberg's interview in the Atlantic magazine with Hillary Clinton has made headlines, with good reason. Her critique of President Obama's Syria policy was pointed and persuasive, as was her assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood's missteps in Egypt.

But what lay beneath the headlines is far more important. The interview revealed a public servant instructed but not chastened by experience, with a clear view of America's role in the world and of the means needed to play that role successfully. If she entered the race and won, she would be better prepared to deal with foreign policy and national defense than any president since George H.W. Bush, whose judgment and experience helped end the Cold War and reunify Germany without a shot being fired.

Although Mrs. Clinton's tart remark that " 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle" has evoked reams of commentary, the words that preceded it are far more important: "Great nations need organizing principles." The former secretary of state expressed enthusiasm for the role the U.S. played in defeating communism and fascism. The question since 1991 has been, what now?

During Bill Clinton's administration, the answer seemed clear enough: Build prosperity by incorporating the workers of Asia, Central Europe and the former Soviet Union into the global economy. The rising tide would create an expanding middle class, which would bolster new democracies and move authoritarian governments toward democracy. So the U.S. should take the lead in promoting open trade and peacefully advocating open government. The winds of history were in our sails.

Mrs. Clinton has thought hard about this, and here is what she told Mr. Goldberg: "The big mistake was thinking" that "the end of history has come upon us, after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was never true, history never stops and nationalisms were going to assert themselves, and then other variations on ideologies were going to claim their space." She cites jihadi Islamism and Vladimir Putin's vision of restored Russian greatness as prime examples. She might well have added China's distinctive combination of political authoritarianism and pell-mell economic growth ("market-Leninism"), which is seen elsewhere as an orderly alternative to democratic messiness.

The rise of violently aggressive anti-democratic ideologies was one rebuttal of the end-of-history theory. Another was the global economic crisis, discrediting the so-called Washington consensus that had dominated world affairs since the early 1990s. Central bankers, it turned out, were not wise enough to eliminate financial panics. Although too much regulation could stifle growth, too little could open the door to reckless risk-taking.

George W. Bush's response to jihadi Islam—global democracy-building backed by American might—came to grief in the sands of Iraq. But a policy built on avoiding that failure, says Mrs. Clinton in the Atlantic, runs risks of its own: "Part of the challenge is that our government too often has a tendency to swing between these extremes" of intervention and non-intervention. She adds: "When you're down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you're not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward." If Mr. Bush's porridge was too hot, Mr. Obama's is too cold.

But moderation is a means to ends, not an end in itself. So what would be the ends, the animating purposes of Mrs. Clinton's foreign policy? Her interview suggests, first, that we must take the fight to jihadi Islamism, which is inherently expansionist. In that connection, she says, she is thinking a lot about "containment, deterrence, and defeat." When unarmed diplomacy cannot succeed, she adds, we should not be afraid to back "the hard men with guns."

Second, we should drive a tough deal with Iran, or none at all. "I've always been in the camp," Mrs. Clinton says, "that held that they did not have a right to enrichment. Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich."

Third, we should distinguish clearly between groups we can work with and those we can't. For example, Mrs. Clinton would exclude Hamas on the grounds that it is virulently anti-Semitic and dedicated to Israel's destruction. She does not believe that Hamas "should in any way be treated as a legitimate interlocutor." Her commitment to Israel's defense is unswerving, including a willingness to call the rise of European anti-Semitism by its rightful name.

Fourth, the U.S. should vigorously advance the cause of women's rights around the world, not only because justice demands it, but also because the empowerment of women promotes economic growth and social progress.

And finally, because many American values "also happen to be universal values," we should take pride in ourselves and make our case to the world. Today, Mrs. Clinton says, "we don't even tell our story very well." As president, clearly, she would do her best to change that.
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary's Foreign Policy on: August 13, 2014, 07:38:03 AM
The Message From That Hillary Interview
She would be the best-prepared president on foreign policy since George H.W. Bush.
By William A. Galston

Aug. 12, 2014 6:57 p.m. ET

Jeffrey Goldberg's interview in the Atlantic magazine with Hillary Clinton has made headlines, with good reason. Her critique of President Obama's Syria policy was pointed and persuasive, as was her assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood's missteps in Egypt.

But what lay beneath the headlines is far more important. The interview revealed a public servant instructed but not chastened by experience, with a clear view of America's role in the world and of the means needed to play that role successfully. If she entered the race and won, she would be better prepared to deal with foreign policy and national defense than any president since George H.W. Bush, whose judgment and experience helped end the Cold War and reunify Germany without a shot being fired.

Although Mrs. Clinton's tart remark that " 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle" has evoked reams of commentary, the words that preceded it are far more important: "Great nations need organizing principles." The former secretary of state expressed enthusiasm for the role the U.S. played in defeating communism and fascism. The question since 1991 has been, what now?

During Bill Clinton's administration, the answer seemed clear enough: Build prosperity by incorporating the workers of Asia, Central Europe and the former Soviet Union into the global economy. The rising tide would create an expanding middle class, which would bolster new democracies and move authoritarian governments toward democracy. So the U.S. should take the lead in promoting open trade and peacefully advocating open government. The winds of history were in our sails.

Mrs. Clinton has thought hard about this, and here is what she told Mr. Goldberg: "The big mistake was thinking" that "the end of history has come upon us, after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was never true, history never stops and nationalisms were going to assert themselves, and then other variations on ideologies were going to claim their space." She cites jihadi Islamism and Vladimir Putin's vision of restored Russian greatness as prime examples. She might well have added China's distinctive combination of political authoritarianism and pell-mell economic growth ("market-Leninism"), which is seen elsewhere as an orderly alternative to democratic messiness.

The rise of violently aggressive anti-democratic ideologies was one rebuttal of the end-of-history theory. Another was the global economic crisis, discrediting the so-called Washington consensus that had dominated world affairs since the early 1990s. Central bankers, it turned out, were not wise enough to eliminate financial panics. Although too much regulation could stifle growth, too little could open the door to reckless risk-taking.

George W. Bush's response to jihadi Islam—global democracy-building backed by American might—came to grief in the sands of Iraq. But a policy built on avoiding that failure, says Mrs. Clinton in the Atlantic, runs risks of its own: "Part of the challenge is that our government too often has a tendency to swing between these extremes" of intervention and non-intervention. She adds: "When you're down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you're not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward." If Mr. Bush's porridge was too hot, Mr. Obama's is too cold.

But moderation is a means to ends, not an end in itself. So what would be the ends, the animating purposes of Mrs. Clinton's foreign policy? Her interview suggests, first, that we must take the fight to jihadi Islamism, which is inherently expansionist. In that connection, she says, she is thinking a lot about "containment, deterrence, and defeat." When unarmed diplomacy cannot succeed, she adds, we should not be afraid to back "the hard men with guns."

Second, we should drive a tough deal with Iran, or none at all. "I've always been in the camp," Mrs. Clinton says, "that held that they did not have a right to enrichment. Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich."

Third, we should distinguish clearly between groups we can work with and those we can't. For example, Mrs. Clinton would exclude Hamas on the grounds that it is virulently anti-Semitic and dedicated to Israel's destruction. She does not believe that Hamas "should in any way be treated as a legitimate interlocutor." Her commitment to Israel's defense is unswerving, including a willingness to call the rise of European anti-Semitism by its rightful name.

Fourth, the U.S. should vigorously advance the cause of women's rights around the world, not only because justice demands it, but also because the empowerment of women promotes economic growth and social progress.

And finally, because many American values "also happen to be universal values," we should take pride in ourselves and make our case to the world. Today, Mrs. Clinton says, "we don't even tell our story very well." As president, clearly, she would do her best to change that.
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gazans not happy with Hamas on: August 13, 2014, 07:28:53 AM,7340,L-4558305,00.html
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Growing Threat from an EMP Attack on: August 13, 2014, 07:23:44 AM
The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack
A nuclear device detonated above the U.S. could kill millions, and we've done almost nothing to prepare.
By R. James Woolsey And Peter Vincent Pry
Aug. 12, 2014 7:14 p.m. ET

In a recent letter to investors, billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer warned that an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is "the most significant threat" to the U.S. and our allies in the world. He's right. Our food and water supplies, communications, banking, hospitals, law enforcement, etc., all depend on the electric grid. Yet until recently little attention has been paid to the ease of generating EMPs by detonating a nuclear weapon in orbit above the U.S., and thus bringing our civilization to a cold, dark halt.

Recent declassification of EMP studies by the U.S. government has begun to draw attention to this dire threat. Rogue nations such as North Korea (and possibly Iran) will soon match Russia and China and have the primary ingredients for an EMP attack: simple ballistic missiles such as Scuds that could be launched from a freighter near our shores; space-launch vehicles able to loft low-earth-orbit satellites; and simple low-yield nuclear weapons that can generate gamma rays and fireballs.

The much neglected 2004 and 2008 reports by the congressional EMP Commission—only now garnering increased public attention—warn that "terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or a military base, they may gain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack."
Enlarge Image


The EMP Commission reports that: "China and Russia have considered limited nuclear-attack options that, unlike their Cold War plans, employ EMP as the primary or sole means of attack." The report further warns that: "designs for variants of such weapons may have been illicitly trafficked for a quarter-century."

During the Cold War, Russia designed an orbiting nuclear warhead resembling a satellite and peaceful space-launch vehicle called a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System. It would use a trajectory that does not approach the U.S. from the north, where our sensors and few modest ballistic-missile defenses are located, but rather from the south. The nuclear weapon would be detonated in orbit, perhaps during its first orbit, destroying much of the U.S. electric grid with a single explosion high above North America.

In 2004, the EMP Commission met with senior Russian military personnel who warned that Russian scientists had been recruited by North Korea to help develop its nuclear arsenal as well as EMP-attack capabilities. In December 2012, the North Koreans successfully orbited a satellite, the KSM-3, compatible with the size and weight of a small nuclear warhead. The trajectory of the KSM-3 had the characteristics for delivery of a surprise nuclear EMP attack against the U.S.

What would a successful EMP attack look like? The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.

In 2009 the congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, whose co-chairmen were former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and James Schlesinger, concurred with the findings of the EMP Commission and urged immediate action to protect the electric grid. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Intelligence Council reached similar conclusions.

What to do?

Surge arrestors, faraday cages and other devices that prevent EMP from damaging electronics, as well micro-grids that are inherently less susceptible to EMP, have been used by the Defense Department for more than 50 years to protect crucial military installations and strategic forces. These can be adapted to protect civilian infrastructure as well. The cost of protecting the national electric grid, according to a 2008 EMP Commission estimate, would be about $2 billion—roughly what the U.S. gives each year in foreign aid to Pakistan.

Last year President Obama signed an executive order to guard critical infrastructure against cyberattacks. But so far this administration doesn't seem to grasp the urgency of the EMP threat. However, in a rare display of bipartisanship, Congress is addressing the threat. In June 2013, Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) and Rep. Yvette Clark (D., N.Y.) introduced the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage, or Shield, Act. Unfortunately, the legislation is stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In October 2013, Rep. Franks and Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Texas) introduced the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. CIPA directs the Department of Homeland Security to adopt a new National Planning Scenario focused on federal, state and local emergency planning, training and resource allocation for survival and recovery from an EMP catastrophe. Yet this important legislation hasn't come to a vote either.

What is lacking in Washington is a sense of urgency. Lawmakers and the administration need to move rapidly to build resilience into our electric grid and defend against an EMP attack that could deliver a devastating blow to the U.S. economy and the American people. Congress should pass and the president should sign into law the Shield Act and CIPA as soon as possible. Literally millions of American lives could depend on it.

Mr. Woolsey is chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former director of the CIA.Mr. Pry served on the EMP Commission, in the CIA, and is the author of "Electric Armageddon" (CreateSpace, 2013).
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India/Indian Ocean (and India-afpakia and India-China) on: August 12, 2014, 06:56:36 PM

Modi Condemns Pakistan's 'Proxy War'; Police Officer Deaths Rise in Karachi; Afghan Taliban Kill 20 Civilians Over Tax


PM Modi visits Kargil; condemns Pakistan's proxy war

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kargil and Leh in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on Tuesday, his second visit to J&K in two months (Indian Express, NDTV, Hindustan Times). While addressing troops of the Indian Army and the Air Force in Leh, Modi strongly condemned Pakistan, and said the neighboring country "has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism."

Dressed in traditional Ladakhi clothes, Modi said in Leh: "There was a time when Prime Ministers never visited this state. I have come here two times already, your love has drawn me here." Modi said further that his three-pronged development plan for the region was about three P's: "Prakash (electricity), Paryavaran (environment), and Paryatan (tourism)."

As the first Indian prime minister to visit the volatile Kargil region since the war in 1999, Modi inaugurated a 44-megawatt Chutak power station in Kargil and promised industrial development of the area. Modi also praised the locals and said: "The people of Kargil are very patriotic and it is inspiring for the entire country." The Kargil war in 1999 was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan, which began after Pakistani soldiers infiltrated the Indian side of the LoC, a military boundary between the Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. Although New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to a truce in 2003, ceasefire violations have continued across the borders.

Sonia Gandhi: increase in communal violence under Modi

In strong criticism of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said on Tuesday that there had been an increase in communal violence in the country since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in May (Hindustan Times, IBNLive). While addressing Congress leaders in the southern state of Kerala, Gandhi said further that the BJP government's main agenda was to divide the people. Gandhi said: "During UPA [United Progressive Alliance] 1 and 2, there were hardly such instances. But in a very short span we have had nothing less than 600 incidents of communal violence in UP [Uttar Pradesh] and perhaps as many in Maharashtra. Why suddenly all these communal instances after the BJP came to power? These instances are deliberately created to divide our society on religious lines. We must condemn this."

Gandhi also criticized the Modi government for not expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people over Israel's assault on Gaza, and said: "this has muted the country's response to the suffering people and betrayed its long tradition of solidarity with the people in Palestine and the vision of two states existing side-by-side in peace and harmony." Last week, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had demanded a discussion over the communal violence in Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament).

Indian minister claims Yale 'degree;' creates twitter storm

Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said her statement regarding her participation at Yale University's leadership program had been "misconstrued" on Monday, a day after claiming she had a "degree from Yale University" (Washington Post, Indian Express, NDTV, Economic Times). Irani tweeted on Monday: "Unfortunate that the statement re my participation in a leadership programme and certificate thereafter was misconstrued." At an event on Saturday Irani had said: "In that kitty of mine where people call me 'anpadh' (illiterate) I do have a degree from Yale University as well which I can bring out and show how Yale celebrated my leadership capacities."

Irani, the youngest cabinet minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, has been criticized for being the education minister even though she does not have a college degree. Irani has had to defend her academic background ever since she took office in May because of contradictory declarations about her education qualifications in her election affidavits in 2004 and 2014.

?Despite her clarification on Monday, Irani's statement created a storm on twitter. Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted: "And our HRD minister forgot to mention her Yale degree in her affidavit this time. But all her affidavits have had different degrees, sigh." A post from "God" retweeted several times said: "Congratulations to Smriti Irani on Graduating from Yale in the exact same amount of time it took Me to Create the World." Another post said: "2 more days at Yale, You could've been Dr. Smriti Irani Tongue."

-- Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan


Police officer killings in Karachi on the rise

The New York Times' Zia ur-Rehman and Declan Walsh reported on Monday that Karachi's police force, which recently logged its 102nd officer death, is on track to exceed the 2013 death toll of 166 police deaths (NYT). They attribute many of the deaths to a growing Taliban presence in the city and Pakistani officials say that the guerilla war that was once fought only in northwestern Pakistan is now seeping into Karachi. "It's a very serious threat," said Ghulam Qadir Thebo, the Karachi police chief. "The Taliban are well trained and well organized, with a network that is linked to global jihad."

Stock market drops

On Tuesday, Pakistani stocks rose above 350 points to settle at the Karach Stock Exchange (KSE) benchmark 100-share index at 28, 425 (Dawn). Earlier that same day, stocks fell over 450 points in the first twelve minutes of the morning trading session.  The market suffered its largest ever drop in a single day in share prices on Monday, as investors panicked about the political marches by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri on Islamabad planned for August 14.

Will Pakistan censor the kiss?

Pakistan's sweetheart (and most highly paid actress) Humaima Malik, worries that her native country won't be very receptive to her latest on-screen romance (BBC). Starring in her first Bollywood role, she will be seen on screen locking lips with Indian co-star Emraan Hashmi (who is known as the 'serial kisser' in Bollywood)(NDTV). Until recently, all kisses were censored in Pakistani cinema, but the fact that the object of her affection is Indian adds to the shock value. Many Pakistani actresses who have sought fame in Bollywood have seen backlash at home in conservative Pakistan.


Afghan Taliban kill civilians over 'war tax'

Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, Kundex police spokesman, said that Taliban militants killed 20 civilians who refused to pay a "war tax" in northern Kunduz province on August 11 (RFE/RL). The Taliban shot and wounded 10 others for refusing to pay that same day. According to a Defense Ministry statement, government troops launched military operations against militants across the country on Monday and Hussaini said 16 militants were killed in these operations.

Attack kills NATO soldier

A NATO service member died in an attack in eastern Afghanistan while a roadside bombing killed three Afghan policemen in the south on Tuesday, Afghanistan officials said (AP). The U.S.-led military alliance gave no further details about the death of the service member, but the death brings the number of NATO service members who have died in Afghanistan so far this year to 51, including 38 Americans.

-- Emily Schneider

Edited by Peter Bergen

208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington and the Quakers 1789 on: August 12, 2014, 06:44:51 PM

"The liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshiping Almighty God agreeably to their conscience, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights." --George Washington, to the Annual meeting of Quakers, 1789
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 'Moderate' Fatah on: August 12, 2014, 04:04:04 PM
Click here to watch: Winner of Arab Idol Sings on PA TV: We Will Replace Israel With Palestine

Hopes that Fatah will be a calming influence on Hamas in the effort to end the fighting in Gaza have been tempered by mixed messages the supposedly more moderate wing of the Arab Palestinian leadership is sending to its international audience and its Arab constituents - including boasting on its Facebook page of the number of Israelis it has killed. In a post seemingly aimed at reminding 'Palestinians' it hates Israel as much as Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization that governs Gaza, the Fatah party seems to take issue with the idea that it isn't doing enough to fight the Jewish state.

Watch Here

The belligerent Facebook message - containing fabricated statistics - was posted on the official home page of Fatah’s Facebook even as representatives of the party founded by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were in Cairo for the peace talks. “Listen well! To whoever does not know Fatah and argues with this giant movement: Fatah has killed 11,000 Israelis; Fatah has sacrificed 170,000 Martyrs (Shahids)...; Fatah was the first to carry out operations (i.e., terror attacks) during the first Intifada... Fatah was the first to fight in the second Intifada (i.e., PA terror campaign 2000-2005)... Fatah led the Palestinian attack on Israel in the UN... Fatah leads the peaceful popular resistance against Israel... Stop and think before you attack [Fatah]."
Source: Fox News
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 12, 2014, 03:19:03 PM
Please post that in the Foreign Policy thread
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good news! on: August 12, 2014, 02:17:19 PM
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: August 12, 2014, 01:29:06 PM
This thread hit 100,000 reads today gentlemen.   cool

Well done!
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: August 12, 2014, 11:13:40 AM
 shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked
214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler: Caliphate puts men to the meat-grinder on: August 12, 2014, 11:05:45 AM
Second post:

And now, a different POV:
Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs
Caliphate puts men to the meat-grinder
By Spengler

General William Tecumseh Sherman burned the city of Atlanta in 1864. He warned: "I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them." Add a zero to calibrate the problem in the Levant today. War in the Middle East is less a strategic than a demographic phenomenon, whose resolution will come with the exhaustion of the pool of potential fighters.

The Middle East has plunged into a new Thirty Years War, allows Richard Haass, the president of the Council of Foreign Relations. "It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing
traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups - militias and the like - operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless," he wrote on July 21.

Well and good: I predicted in 2006 that the George W Bush administration's blunder would provoke another Thirty Years War in the region, and repeated the diagnosis many times since. But I doubt that Mr Haass (or Walter Russell Mead, who cited the Haass article) has given sufficient thought to the implications.

How does one handle wars of this sort? In 2008 I argued for a "Richelovian" foreign policy, that is, emulation of the evil genius who guided France to victory at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648. Wars of this sort end when two generations of fighters are killed. They last for decades (as did the Peloponnesian War, the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars of the 20th century) because one kills off the fathers die in the first half of the war, and the sons in the second.

This new Thirty Years War has its origins in a demographic peak and an economic trough. There are nearly 30 million young men aged 15 to 24 in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, a bulge generation produced by pre-modern fertility rates that prevailed a generation ago. But the region's economies cannot support them. Syria does not have enough water to support an agricultural population, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers into tent cities preceded its civil war. The West mistook the death spasms of a civilization for an "Arab Spring," and its blunders channeled the youth bulge into a regional war.

The way to win such a war is by attrition, that is, by feeding into the meat-grinder a quarter to a third of the enemy's available manpower. Once a sufficient number of who wish to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so, the war stops because there are insufficient recruits to fill the ranks. That is how Generals Grant and Sherman fought the American Civil War, and that is the indicated strategy in the Middle East today.

It is a horrible business. It was not inevitable. It came about because of the ideological rigidity of the Bush Administration compounded by the strategic withdrawal of the Obama administration. It could have been avoided by the cheap and simple expedient of bombing Iran's nuclear program and Revolutionary Guards bases, followed by an intensive subversion effort aimed at regime change in Teheran. Former Vice President Dick Cheney advocated this course of action, but then Secretary of State Condileeza Rice persuaded Bush that the Muslim world would never forgive America for an attack on another Muslim state.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, warned Bush that America's occupation army in Iraq had become hostage to Iranian retaliation: if America bombed Iran, Iran could exact vengeance in American blood in the cities of Iraq. Then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen told Charlie Rose on March 16, 2009: "What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is, in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it's the unintended consequences. It's the further destabilization in the region. It's how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope right now [because of the] capability that Iran has across the Gulf. So, I worry about their responses and I worry about it escalating in ways that we couldn't predict."

The Bush Administration was too timid to take on Iraq; the Obama administration views Iran as a prospective ally. Even Neville Chamberlain did not regard Hitler as prospective partner in European security. But that is what Barack Obama said in March to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg: "What I'll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they're not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn't to say that they aren't a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they're not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives." Bush may have been feckless, but Obama is mad.

With Iran neutralized, Syrian President Basher Assad would have had no choice but to come to terms with Syria's Sunni majority; as it happens, he had the firepower to expel millions of them. Without the protection of Tehran, Iraq's Shia would have had to compromise with Sunnis and Kurds. Iraqi Sunnis would not have allied with ISIS against the Iranian-backed regime in Baghdad. A million or more Iraqis would not have been displaced by the metastasizing Caliphate.

The occupation of Iraq in the pursuit of nation-building was colossally stupid. It wasted thousands of lives and disrupted millions, cost the better part of a trillion dollars, and demoralized the American public like no failure since Vietnam-most of all America's young people. Not only did it fail to accomplish its objective, but it kept America stuck in a tar-baby trap, unable to take action against the region's main malefactor. Worst of all: the methods America employed in order to give the Iraq war the temporary appearance of success set in motion the disaster we have today. I warned of this in a May 4, 2010 essay entitled, General Petraeus' Thirty Years War (Asia Times Online, May 4, 2010).
The great field marshal of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648, Albrecht von Wallenstein, taught armies to live off the land, and succeeded so well that nearly half the people of Central Europe starved to death during the conflict. General David Petraeus, who heads America's Central Command (CENTCOM), taught the land to live off him. Petraeus' putative success in the Iraq "surge" of 2007-2008 is one of the weirder cases of Karl Marx's quip of history repeating itself first as tragedy second as farce. The consequences will be similar, that is, hideous.

Wallenstein put 100,000 men into the field, an army of terrifying size for the times, by turning the imperial army into a parasite that consumed the livelihood of the empire's home provinces. The Austrian Empire fired him in 1629 after five years of depredation, but pressed him back into service in 1631. Those who were left alive joined the army, in a self-feeding spiral of destruction on a scale not seen in Europe since the 8th century. Wallenstein's power grew with the implosion of civil society, and the Austrian emperor had him murdered in 1634.

Petraeus accomplished the same thing with (literally) bags of money. Starting with Iraq, the American military has militarized large parts of the Middle East and Central Asia in the name of pacification. And now America is engaged in a grand strategic withdrawal from responsibility in the region, leaving behind men with weapons and excellent reason to use them.
There is no way to rewind the tape after the fragile ties of traditional society have been ripped to shreds by war. All of this was foreseeable; most of it might have been averted. But the sordid players in this tragicomedy had too much reputation at stake to reverse course when it still was possible. Now they will spend the declining years of their careers blaming each other.

Three million men will have to die before the butchery comes to an end. That is roughly the number of men who have nothing to go back to, and will fight to the death rather than surrender.

ISIS by itself is overrated. It is a hoard enhanced by captured heavy weapons, but cannot fly warplanes in a region where close air support is the decisive factor in battle. The fighters of the Caliphate cannot hide under the jungle canopy like the North Vietnamese. They occupy terrain where aerial reconnaissance can identify every stray cat. The Saudi and Jordanian air forces are quite capable of defending their borders. Saudi Arabia has over 300 F-15's and 72 Typhoons, and more than 80 Apache attack helicopters. Jordan has 60 F16's as well as 25 Cobra attack helicopters. The putative Caliphate can be contained; it cannot break out into Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and it cannot advance far into the core Shia territory of Iraq. It can operate freely in Syria, in a war of attrition with the Iranian backed government army. The grim task of regional security policy is to channel the butchery into areas that do not threaten oil production or transport.

Ultimately, ISIS is a distraction. The problem is Iran. Without Iran, Hamas would have no capacity to strike Israel beyond a few dozen kilometers past the Gaza border. Iran now has GPS-guided missiles which are much harder to shoot down than ordinary ballistic missiles (an unguided missile has a trajectory that is easy to calculate after launch; guided missiles squirrel about seeking their targets). If Hamas acquires such rockets-and it will eventually if left to its own devices-Israel will have to strike further, harder and deeper to eliminate the threat. That confrontation will not come within a year, and possibly not within five years, but it looms over the present hostilities. The region's security will hinge on the ultimate reckoning with Iran.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. He is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the Was Family Fellow at the Middle East Forum. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It's Not the End of the World - It's Just the End of You, also appeared that fall, from Van Praag Press.

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cockburn: ISIS Consolidates on: August 12, 2014, 10:58:08 AM

Isis consolidates
Patrick Cockburn

As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some five thousand Isis fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to besiege half a million Kurds in their enclave at Kobani on the Turkish border. In central Syria, near Palmyra, Isis fought the Syrian army as it overran the al-Shaer gasfield, one of the largest in the country, in a surprise assault that left an estimated three hundred soldiers and civilians dead. Repeated government counter-attacks finally retook the gasfield but Isis still controls most of Syria’s oil and gas production. The Caliphate may be poor and isolated but its oil wells and control of crucial roads provide a steady income in addition to the plunder of war.

The birth of the new state is the most radical change to the political geography of the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was implemented in the aftermath of the First World War. Yet this explosive transformation has created surprisingly little alarm internationally or even among those in Iraq and Syria not yet under the rule of Isis. Politicians and diplomats tend to treat Isis as if it is a Bedouin raiding party that appears dramatically from the desert, wins spectacular victories and then retreats to its strongholds leaving the status quo little changed. Such a scenario is conceivable but is getting less and less likely as Isis consolidates its hold on its new conquests in an area that may soon stretch from Iran to the Mediterranean.

The very speed and unexpectedness of its rise make it easy for Western and regional leaders to hope that the fall of Isis and the implosion of the Caliphate might be equally sudden and swift. But all the evidence is that this is wishful thinking and the trend is in the other direction, with the opponents of Isis becoming weaker and less capable of resistance: in Iraq the army shows no signs of recovering from its earlier defeats and has failed to launch a single successful counter-attack; in Syria the other opposition groups, including the battle-hardened fighters of al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, are demoralised and disintegrating as they are squeezed between Isis and the Assad government. Karen Koning Abuzayd, a member of the UN’s Commission of Inquiry in Syria, says that more and more Syrian rebels are defecting to Isis: ‘They see it’s better, these guys are strong, these guys are winning battles, they were taking territory, they have money, they can train us.’ This is bad news for the government, which barely held off an assault in 2012 and 2013 by rebels less well trained, organised and armed than Isis; it will have real difficulties stopping the forces of the Caliphate advancing west.

In Baghdad there was shock and terror on 10 June at the fall of Mosul and as people realised that trucks packed with Isis gunmen were only an hour’s drive away. But instead of assaulting Baghdad, Isis took most of Anbar, the vast Sunni province that sprawls across western Iraq on either side of the Euphrates. In Baghdad, with its mostly Shia population of seven million, people know what to expect if the murderously anti-Shia Isis forces capture the city, but they take heart from the fact that the calamity has not happened yet. ‘We were frightened by the military disaster at first but we Baghdadis have got used to crises over the last 35 years,’ one woman said. Even with Isis at the gates, Iraqi politicians have gone on playing political games as they move ponderously towards replacing the discredited prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

‘It is truly surreal,’ a former Iraqi minister said. ‘When you speak to any political leader in Baghdad they talk as if they had not just lost half the country.’ Volunteers had gone to the front after a fatwa from the grand ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric. But these militiamen are now streaming back to their homes, complaining that they were half-starved and forced to use their own weapons and buy their own ammunition. The only large-scale counter-attack launched by the regular army and the newly raised Shia militia was a disastrous foray into Tikrit on 15 July that was ambushed and defeated with heavy losses. There is no sign that the dysfunctional nature of the Iraqi army has changed. ‘They were using just one helicopter in support of the troops in Tikrit,’ the former minister said, ‘so I wonder what on earth happened to the 140 helicopters the Iraqi state has bought in recent years?’

Probably the money for the missing 139 helicopters was simply stolen. There are other wholly corrupt states in the world but few of them have oil revenues of $100 billion a year to steal from. The sole aim of many officials has long been to get the largest kickback possible and they did not much care if jihadi groups did the same. I met a Turkish businessman in Baghdad who said he had had a large construction contract in Mosul over the last few years. The local emir or leader of Isis, then known as al-Qaida in Iraq, demanded $500,000 a month in protection money from the company. ‘I complained again and again about this to the government in Baghdad,’ the businessman said, ‘but they would do nothing about it except to say that I could add the money I paid al-Qaida to the contract price.’ The emir was soon killed and his successor demanded that the protection money be increased to $1 million a month. The businessman refused to pay and one of his Iraqi employees was killed; he withdrew his Turkish staff and his equipment to Turkey. ‘Later I got a message from al-Qaida saying that the price was back down to $500,000 and I could come back,’ he said. This was some time before Isis captured the city.

In the face of these failures Iraq’s Shia majority is taking comfort from two beliefs that, if true, would mean the present situation is not as dangerous as it looks. They argue that Iraq’s Sunnis have risen in revolt and Isis fighters are only the shock troops or vanguard of an uprising provoked by the anti-Sunni policies and actions of Maliki. Once he is replaced, as is almost certain, Baghdad will offer the Sunnis a new power-sharing agreement with regional autonomy similar to that enjoyed by the Kurds. Then the Sunni tribes, former military officers and Baathists who have allowed Isis to take the lead in the Sunni revolt will turn on their ferocious allies. Despite all signs to the contrary, Shia at all levels are putting faith in this myth, that Isis is weak and can be easily discarded by Sunni moderates once they’ve achieved their goals. One Shia said to me: ‘I wonder if Isis really exists.’

Unfortunately, Isis not only exists but is an efficient and ruthless organisation that has no intention of waiting for its Sunni allies to betray it. In Mosul it demanded that all opposition fighters swear allegiance to the Caliphate or give up their weapons. In late June and early July they detained between 15 to 20 former officers from Saddam Hussein’s time, including two generals. Groups that had put up pictures of Saddam were told to take them down or face the consequences. ‘It doesn’t seem likely,’ Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadists, said, ‘that the rest of the Sunni military opposition will be able to turn against Isis successfully. If they do, they will have to act as quickly as possible before Isis gets too strong.’ He points out that the supposedly more moderate wing of the Sunni opposition had done nothing to stop the remnants of the ancient Christian community in Mosul from being forced to flee after Isis told them they had to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be killed. Members of other sects and ethnic groups denounced as Shia or polytheists are being persecuted, imprisoned and murdered. The moment is passing when the non-Isis opposition could successfully mount a challenge.

The Iraqi Shia offer another explanation for the way their army disintegrated: it was stabbed in the back by the Kurds. Seeking to shift the blame from himself, Maliki claims that Erbil, the Kurdish capital, ‘is a headquarters for Isis, Baathists, al-Qaida and terrorists’. Many Shia believe this: it makes them feel that their security forces (nominally 350,000 soldiers and 650,000 police) failed because they were betrayed and not because they wouldn’t fight. One Iraqi told me he was at an iftar meal during Ramadan ‘with a hundred Shia professional people, mostly doctors and engineers and they all took the stab-in-the-back theory for granted as an explanation for what went wrong’. The confrontation with the Kurds is important because it makes it impossible to create a united front against Isis. The Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, took advantage of the Iraqi army’s flight to seize all the territories, including the city of Kirkuk, which have been in dispute between Kurds and Arabs since 2003. He now has a 600-mile common frontier with the Caliphate and is an obvious ally for Baghdad, where Kurds make up part of the government. By trying to scapegoat the Kurds, Maliki is ensuring that the Shia will have no allies in their confrontation with Isis if it resumes its attack in the direction of Baghdad. Isis and their Sunni allies have been surprised by the military weakness of the Baghdad government. They are unlikely to be satisfied with regional autonomy for Sunni provinces and a larger share of jobs and oil revenues. Their uprising has turned into a full counter-revolution that aims to take back power over all of Iraq.

At the moment Baghdad has a phoney war atmosphere like London or Paris in late 1939 or early 1940, and for similar reasons. People had feared an imminent battle for the capital after the fall of Mosul, but it hasn’t happened yet and optimists hope it won’t happen at all. Life is more uncomfortable than it used to be, with only four hours of electricity on some days, but at least war hasn’t yet come to the heart of the city. Nevertheless, some form of military attack, direct or indirect, will probably happen once Isis has consolidated its hold on the territory it has just conquered: it sees its victories as divinely inspired. It believes in killing or expelling Shia rather than negotiating with them, as it has shown in Mosul. Some Shia leaders may calculate that the US or Iran will always intervene to save Baghdad, but both powers are showing reluctance to plunge into the Iraqi quagmire in support of a dysfunctional government.

Iraq’s Shia leaders haven’t grappled with the fact that their domination over the Iraqi state, brought about by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is finished, and only a Shia rump is left. It ended because of their own incompetence and corruption and because the Sunni uprising in Syria in 2011 destabilised the sectarian balance of power in Iraq. Three years on, the Isis-led Sunni victory in Iraq threatens to break the military stalemate in Syria. Assad has been slowly pushing back against a weakening opposition: in Damascus and its outskirts, the Qalamoun mountains along the Lebanese border and Homs, government forces have been advancing slowly and are close to encircling the large rebel enclave in Aleppo. But Assad’s combat troops are noticeably thin on the ground, need to avoid heavy casualties and only have the strength to fight on one front at a time. The government’s tactic is to devastate a rebel-held district with artillery fire and barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, force most of the population to flee, seal off what may now be a sea of ruins and ultimately force the rebels to surrender. But the arrival of large numbers of well-armed Isis fighters fresh from recent successes will be a new and dangerous challenge for Assad. They overran two important Syrian army garrisons in the east in late July. A conspiracy theory, much favoured by the rest of the Syrian opposition and by Western diplomats, that Isis and Assad are in league, has been shown to be false.

Isis may well advance on Aleppo in preference to Baghdad: it’s a softer target and one less likely to provoke international intervention. This will leave the West and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – with a quandary: their official policy is to get rid of Assad, but Isis is now the second strongest military force in Syria; if he falls, it’s in a good position to fill the vacuum. Like the Shia leaders in Baghdad, the US and its allies have responded to the rise of Isis by descending into fantasy. They pretend they are fostering a ‘third force’ of moderate Syrian rebels to fight both Assad and Isis, though in private Western diplomats admit this group doesn’t really exist outside a few beleaguered pockets. Aymenn al-Tamimi confirms that this Western-backed opposition ‘is getting weaker and weaker’; he believes supplying them with more weapons won’t make much difference. Jordan, under pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia, is supposed to be a launching pad for this risky venture but it’s getting cold feet. ‘Jordan is frightened of Isis,’ one Jordanian official in Amman said. ‘Most Jordanians want Assad to win the war.’ He said Jordan is buckling under the strain of coping with vast numbers of Syrian refugees, ‘the equivalent of the entire population of Mexico moving into the US in one year’.

The foster parents of Isis and the other Sunni jihadi movements in Iraq and Syria are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. This doesn’t mean the jihadis didn’t have strong indigenous roots, but their rise was crucially supported by outside Sunni powers. The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations, which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the Isis takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: ‘Such things do not happen spontaneously.’ In a speech in London in July, he said the Saudi policy towards jihadis has two contradictory motives: fear of jihadis operating within Saudi Arabia, and a desire to use them against Shia powers abroad. He said the Saudis are ‘deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shiadom’. It’s unlikely the Sunni community as a whole in Iraq would have lined up behind Isis without the support Saudi Arabia gave directly or indirectly to many Sunni movements. The same is true of Syria, where Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington and head of Saudi intelligence from 2012 to February 2014, was doing everything he could to back the jihadi opposition until his dismissal. Fearful of what they’ve helped create, the Saudis are now veering in the other direction, arresting jihadi volunteers rather than turning a blind eye as they go to Syria and Iraq, but it may be too late. Saudi jihadis have little love for the House of Saud. On 23 July, Isis launched an attack on one of the last Syrian army strongholds in the northern province of Raqqa. It began with a suicide car-bomb attack; the vehicle was driven by a Saudi called Khatab al-Najdi who had put pictures on the car windows of three women held in Saudi prisons, one of whom was Hila al-Kasir, his niece.

Turkey’s role has been different but no less significant than Saudi Arabia’s in aiding Isis and other jihadi groups. Its most important action has been to keep open its 510-mile border with Syria. This gave Isis, al-Nusra and other opposition groups a safe rear base from which to bring in men and weapons. The border crossing points have been the most contested places during the rebels’ ‘civil war within the civil war’. Most foreign jihadis have crossed Turkey on their way to Syria and Iraq. Precise figures are difficult to come by, but Morocco’s Interior Ministry said recently that 1122 Moroccan jihadists have entered Syria, including nine hundred who went in 2013, two hundred of whom were killed. Iraqi security suspects that Turkish military intelligence may have been heavily involved in aiding Isis when it was reconstituting itself in 2011. Reports from the Turkish border say Isis is no longer welcome, but with weapons taken from the Iraqi army and the seizure of Syrian oil and gasfields, it no longer needs so much outside help.

For America, Britain and the Western powers, the rise of Isis and the Caliphate is the ultimate disaster. Whatever they intended by their invasion of Iraq in 2003 and their efforts to get rid of Assad in Syria since 2011, it was not to see the creation of a jihadi state spanning northern Iraq and Syria run by a movement a hundred times bigger and much better organised than the al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden. The war on terror for which civil liberties have been curtailed and hundreds of billions of dollars spent has failed miserably. The belief that Isis is interested only in ‘Muslim against Muslim’ struggles is another instance of wishful thinking: Isis has shown it will fight anybody who doesn’t adhere to its bigoted, puritanical and violent variant of Islam. Where Isis differs from al-Qaida is that it’s a well-run military organisation that is very careful in choosing its targets and the optimum moment to attack them.

Many in Baghdad hope the excesses of Isis – for example, blowing up mosques it deems shrines, like that of Younis (Jonah) in Mosul – will alienate the Sunnis. In the long term they may do just that, but opposing Isis is very dangerous and, for all its brutality, it has brought victory to a defeated and persecuted Sunni community. Even those Sunnis in Mosul who don’t like it are fearful of the return of a vengeful Shia-dominated Iraqi government. So far Baghdad’s response to its defeat has been to bomb Mosul and Tikrit randomly, leaving local people in no doubt about its indifference to their welfare or survival. The fear will not change even if Maliki is replaced by a more conciliatory prime minister. A Sunni in Mosul, writing just after a missile fired by government forces had exploded in the city, told me: ‘Maliki’s forces have already demolished the University of Tikrit. It has become havoc and rubble like all the city. If Maliki reaches us in Mosul he will kill its people or turn them into refugees. Pray for us.’ Such views are common, and make it less likely that Sunnis will rise up in opposition to Isis and its Caliphate. A new and terrifying state has been born.
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Rest in Peace Robin Williams on: August 12, 2014, 10:33:30 AM
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spambots on: August 12, 2014, 01:35:16 AM

Open Question: How would you repurpose a Spam Bot for info warfare?
Posted: 11 Aug 2014 11:06 AM PDT
My last post on spam bots openned up an interesting question:  how would you repurpose them for info warfare?
Spam bots can interact with us via:
   e-mail,
   phonecalls, and
   text messages.
Add your ideas to the discussion below. 

The IRS Bot Scam from Pakistan
Posted: 11 Aug 2014 07:32 AM PDT
I just got a call from the IRS bot today.  It threatened me in a computerized voice with an audit and prompted me to call it back to take with an agent. 
Of course, the call I got wasn't the IRS.  The IRS doesn't initiate an audit that way (it mails you). 
It was from scam bot from Pakistan.
In this case, the bot used an Internet connection to the US to dial my number.  That provided it with the number of 1-202-241-0331 which resolved to an official looking caller ID for the "District of Columbia".
If you haven't noticed already, most of the calls we get on our phones now are spam.   Why?
   Mismanaged phone companies.  The idiots running the phone companies look the other way when it comes to phone scams because of the $ they pump into the system.  Apparently, being a regulated monopoly wasn't enough.
   Backward technology.  The phone companies don't use Baysean spam filters and customer ratings/feedback to weed out phone scammers like g-mail etc. do.  This specific scam has been using this number for weeks without any action being taken to block it.
   A broken law enforcement/national security system.  Our security system now treats us as the criminals which is why IRS scams are a multi-billion dollar business every year.  Worse, it completely ignores a constant onslaught of frauds and scams that damage us, from Wall Street's multi-trillion dollar "too big to prosecute" frauds to daily telephone/e-mail bot hacks like this one.
Why is this important?
What's interesting to me is how easily this type of bot attack can be adopted by global guerrillas for large scale and very effective attacks on the US. 
I'll have more detail on this in my upcoming e-booklet: iWar. 
Hopefully, I'll get it up on Amazon/etc. this week.

218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIL supporters in Holland chant "Death to the Jews" on: August 12, 2014, 01:31:42 AM

IIRC "Mohammed" is the second most common name of new borns in Rotterdam.

219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: August 11, 2014, 01:21:28 PM
Unless we fight and win, then yes.
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: August 11, 2014, 12:47:00 PM
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More on intestinal flora on: August 11, 2014, 12:45:46 PM
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, the passions of war, Federalist 34, 1788 on: August 11, 2014, 12:01:31 PM
"To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquillity would be to calculate on the weaker springs of human character." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, 1788
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: August 11, 2014, 10:52:03 AM

His outreach efforts could/should play well across the political spectrum, but he seems to be hemmed in by his previous isolationism.   There does seem to be a way around this given ISIL's threats to the US homeland, but he's just not there.
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Al-Bagdaddy is Bush's fault on: August 11, 2014, 10:00:14 AM
U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel
Baghdadi of ISIS Pushes an Islamist Crusade


BAGHDAD — When American forces raided a home near Falluja during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about.

The Americans duly registered his name as they processed him and the others at the Camp Bucca detention center: Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry.

That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.

“He was a street thug when we picked him up in 2004,” said a Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “It’s hard to imagine we could have had a crystal ball then that would tell us he’d become head of ISIS.”

At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after ISIS’ military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq.

Mr. Baghdadi has seemed to revel in the fight, promising that ISIS would soon be in “direct confrontation” with the United States.

Still, when he first latched on to Al Qaeda, in the early years of the American occupation, it was not as a fighter, but rather as a religious figure. He has since declared himself caliph of the Islamic world, and pressed a violent campaign to root out religious minorities, like Shiites and Yazidis, that has brought condemnation even from Qaeda leaders.

Despite his reach for global stature, Mr. Baghdadi, in his early 40s, in many ways has remained more mysterious than any of the major jihadi figures who preceded him.

American and Iraqi officials have teams of intelligence analysts and operatives dedicated to stalking him, but have had little success in piecing together the arc of his life. And his recent appearance at a mosque in Mosul to deliver a sermon, a video of which was distributed online, was the first time many of his followers had ever seen him.

Mr. Baghdadi is said to have a doctorate in Islamic studies from a university in Baghdad, and was a mosque preacher in his hometown, Samarra. He also has an attractive pedigree, claiming to trace his ancestry to the Quraysh Tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.

Beyond that, almost every biographical point about Mr. Baghdadi is occluded by some confusion or another.

The Pentagon says that Mr. Baghdadi, after being arrested in Falluja in early 2004, was released that December with a large group of other prisoners deemed low level. But Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi scholar who has researched Mr. Baghdadi’s life, sometimes on behalf of Iraqi intelligence, said that Mr. Baghdadi had spent five years in an American detention facility where, like many ISIS fighters now on the battlefield, he became more radicalized.

Mr. Hashimi said that Mr. Baghdadi had grown up in a poor family in a farming village near Samarra, and that his family was Sufi — a strain of Islam known for its tolerance. He said Mr. Baghdadi had come to Baghdad in the early 1990s, and over time became more radical.

Early in the insurgency, he gravitated toward a new jihadi group led by the flamboyant Jordanian militant operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Though Mr. Zarqawi’s group, Al Qaeda in Iraq, began as a mostly Iraqi insurgent organization, it claimed allegiance to the global Qaeda leadership, and over the years brought in more and more foreign leadership figures.

It is unclear how much prominence Mr. Baghdadi enjoyed under Mr. Zarqawi. Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer now at the Brookings Institution, recently wrote that Mr. Baghdadi had spent several years in Afghanistan, working alongside Mr. Zarqawi. But some officials say the American intelligence community does not believe Mr. Baghdadi has ever set foot outside the conflict zones of Iraq and Syria, and that he was never particularly close to Mr. Zarqawi.

The American operation that killed Mr. Zarqawi in 2006 was a huge blow to the organization’s leadership. But it was years later that Mr. Baghdadi got his chance to take the reins.

As the Americans were winding down their war in Iraq, they focused on trying to wipe out Al Qaeda in Iraq’s remaining leadership. In April 2010, a joint operation by Iraqi and American forces made the biggest strike against the group in years, killing its top two figures near Tikrit.

A month later, the group issued a statement announcing new leadership, and Mr. Baghdadi was at the top of the list. The Western intelligence community scrambled for information.

“Any idea who these guys are?” an analyst at Stratfor, a private intelligence company that then worked for the American government in Iraq, wrote in an email that has since been released by WikiLeaks. “These are likely nom de guerres, but are they associated with anyone we know?”

In June 2010, Stratfor published a report on the group that considered its prospects in the wake of the killings of the top leadership. The report stated, “the militant organization’s future for success looks bleak.”

Still, the report said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq, then an alternative name for Al Qaeda in Iraq, “I.S.I.’s intent to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq has not diminished.”

The Sunni tribes of eastern Syria and Iraq’s Anbar and Nineveh Provinces have long had ties that run deeper than national boundaries, and ISIS was built on those relationships. Accordingly, as the group’s fortunes waned in Iraq, it found a new opportunity in the fight against Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

As more moderate Syrian rebel groups were beaten down by the Syrian security forces and their allies, ISIS increasingly took control of the fight, in part on the strength of weapons and funding from its operations in Iraq and from jihadist supporters in the Arab world.  That fact has led American lawmakers and political figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to accuse President Obama of aiding ISIS’ rise in two ways: first by completely withdrawing American troops from Iraq in 2011, then by hesitating to arm more moderate Syrian opposition groups early in that conflict.

“I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if we had committed to empowering the moderate Syrian opposition last year,” Representative Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a recent hearing on the crisis in Iraq. “Would ISIS have grown as it did?”

But well before then, American actions were critical to Mr. Baghdadi’s rise in more direct ways. He is Iraqi to the core, and his extremist ideology was sharpened and refined in the crucible of the American occupation.

The American invasion presented Mr. Baghdadi and his allies with a ready-made enemy and recruiting draw. And the American ouster of Saddam Hussein, whose brutal dictatorship had kept a lid on extremist Islamist movements, gave Mr. Baghdadi the freedom for his radical views to flourish.

In contrast to Mr. Zarqawi, who increasingly looked outside Iraq for leadership help, Mr. Baghdadi has surrounded himself by a tight clique of former Baath Party military and intelligence officers from the Hussein regime who know how to fight.

Analysts and Iraqi intelligence officers believe that after Mr. Baghdadi took over the organization he appointed a Hussein-era officer, a man known as Hajji Bakr, as his military commander, overseeing operations and a military council that included three other officers of the former regime’s security forces.

Hajji Bakr was believed to have been killed last year in Syria. Analysts believe that he and at least two of the three other men on the military council were held at various times by the Americans at Camp Bucca.

Mr. Baghdadi has been criticized by some in the wider jihadi community for his reliance on former Baathists. But for many others, Mr. Baghdadi’s successes have trumped these critiques.

The victories gained by the militant group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were built on months of maneuvering along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which define a region known as the cradle of civilization.

“He has credibility because he runs half of Iraq and half of Syria,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New American Foundation.

Syria may have been a temporary refuge and proving ground, but Iraq has always been his stronghold and his most important source of financing. Now, it has become the main venue for Mr. Baghdadi’s state-building exercise, as well.

Although the group’s capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, appeared to catch the American intelligence community and the Iraqi government by surprise, Mr. Baghdadi’s mafia-like operations in the city had long been crucial to his strategy of establishing the Islamic caliphate.

His group earned an estimated $12 million a month, according to American officials, from extortion schemes in Mosul, which it used to finance operations in Syria. Before June, ISIS controlled neighborhoods of the city by night, collecting money and slipping in to the countryside by day.

The United Nations Security Council is considering new measures aimed at crippling the group’s finances, according to Reuters, by threatening sanctions on supporters. Such action is likely to have little effect because, by now, the group is almost entirely self-financing, through its seizing oil fields, extortion and tax collection in the territories it controls. As it gains territory in Iraq, it has found new ways to generate revenue. For instance, recently in Hawija, a village near Kirkuk, the group demanded that all former soldiers or police officers pay an $850 “repentance fine.”

Though he has captured territory through brutal means, Mr. Baghdadi has also taken practical steps at state-building, and even shown a lighter side. In Mosul, ISIS has held a “fun day” for kids, distributed gifts and food during Eid al-Fitr, held Quran recitation competitions, started bus services and opened schools.

Mr. Baghdadi appears to be drawing on a famous jihadi text that has long inspired Al Qaeda: “The Management of Savagery,” written by a Saudi named Abu Bakr Naji.

Mr. Fishman called the text, “Che Guevara warmed over for jihadis.” William McCants, an analyst at the Brookings Institution who in 2005, as a fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, translated the book in to English, once described it as “the seven highly effective habits of jihadi leaders.”

American officials say Mr. Baghdadi runs a more efficient organization than Mr. Zarqawi did, and has unchallenged control over the organization, with authority delegated to his lieutenants. “He doesn’t have to sign off on every detail,” said one senior United States counterterrorism official. “He gives them more discretion and flexibility.”

A senior Pentagon official said of Mr. Baghdadi, with grudging admiration: “He’s done a good job of rallying and organizing a beaten-down organization. But he may now be overreaching.”

But even before the civil war in Syria presented him with a growth opportunity, Mr. Baghdadi had been taking steps in Iraq — something akin to a corporate restructuring — that laid the foundation for the group’s resurgence, just as the Americans were leaving. He picked off rivals through assassinations, orchestrated prison breaks to replenish his ranks of fighters and diversified his sources of funding through extortion, to wean the group off outside funding from Al Qaeda’s central authorities.

“He was preparing to split from Al Qaeda,” Mr. Hashimi said.

Now Mr. Baghdadi commands not just a terrorist organization, but, according to Brett McGurk, the top State Department official on Iraq policy, “a full blown army.”

Speaking at a recent congressional hearing, Mr. McGurk said, “it is worse than Al Qaeda.”
225  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: August 11, 2014, 12:31:02 AM
Looked like they were standing in an office and for no reason I could visually discern he drew his gun and momentarily pointed at one of the civilians.
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SOFA up from the memory hole on: August 11, 2014, 12:18:17 AM
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reality does with Baraq's leading behind what it does to leading behinds on: August 10, 2014, 11:52:27 PM
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Feinstein vs. the CIA on: August 10, 2014, 06:23:33 PM
229  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: August 10, 2014, 04:52:39 PM
The quick little clip I saw sure did not appear to be that.
230  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: August 10, 2014, 02:23:51 PM
As a general rule pointing guns at people, especially police chiefs at their employers, tends to be a bad idea.  Yes?
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kasparov on: August 10, 2014, 02:07:30 PM
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What Hamas wants on: August 10, 2014, 01:59:14 PM
Much has been made of the lopsided coverage of the Gaza conflict, with reporters being chastised for allowing either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian biases to seep through into their reporting and in some cases their tweets and Facebook posts. Questions like, “Does reporting death tolls convey a sympathy for the Palestinians?” float through newsrooms and editorial meetings, with few good, concrete answers emerging, and reporters thousands of miles away in the field unmoved by editorial handwringing anyhow. This is lamentable but in some ways inevitable — the best reporters on this conflict are presumably ones who have a deep understanding of the long history and can therefore contextualize it, but that deep understanding often starts to erode objectivity. But many of the criticisms of bias — some well-founded, some questionable — ignore the most glaring example of media malfeasance that is routinely perpetrated when covering this war, which is either the result of anti-Israel bias or successful Hamas PR strategy. It boils down to three words. Time and time again you hear it on the news when discussing negotiations with Israel: “What Hamas wants...” Hamas wants a cease-fire; Hamas wants the Gaza border blockade lifted; Hamas wants their tunnels left alone; Hamas wants a Palestinian state. All these things may be true of the political arm of Hamas. But rarely is it mentioned in a news report that Hamas’ primary objective, its main goal, what it really wants and what its military arm is designed and determined to get, is the total destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jews.

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It’s a crucial component that’s regularly left out of news reports. But any story that does not mention this among Hamas’ chief demands is not an intellectually honest or complete one. Few in the media seem to grasp this, the effect of which has been to create a gauzy and nebulous moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas that isn’t really there. Those who have understood this have had to assert it vigorously and explicitly (as I am doing here), which only highlights how pervasive the problem is. Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic writes, as if explaining it to a fifth grader, “The goal of Hama — the actual, overarching goal — is to terrorize the Jews of Israel, through mass murder, into abandoning their country. If generations of Palestinians have to be sacrificed to that goal, well, Hamas believes such sacrifices are theologically justified.” It’s truly bizarre that writers like Goldberg need to put this conflict in such stark terms. It’s not as though Hamas has been coy about their desires. In the Hamas Covenant, or charter, written in 1988, it states that its “struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious,” and calls for the “obliteration” of Israel. “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!” In 2006, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar said he dreamed of “hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it.” Later that same year, Hamas’ political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said Hamas would never recognize the “usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem.” Hamas has intermittently, when politically helpful, tried to suggest that its enemies aren’t all Jews, just Zionist Jews who, as they see it, occupy Palestine. But it isn’t hard to find contradictions. As recently as 2012, in an August sermon, Ahmad Bahr, Deputy Speaker of the Hamas Parliament, called all Muslims to jihad: “Why? In order to annihilate those Jews.” He goes on, “Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, destroy the Americans and their supporters. Oh Allah, count them one by one, and kill them all, without leaving a single one.” In scrubbing media coverage of Hamas’ true intentions, blatant as they are, the media is giving the impression that Hamas “just” wants a few discrete demands answered like Hitler “just” wanted Poland. It isn’t biased to reflect sympathetically on Palestinian casualties, or even to question Israel’s strategies. But if the media is truly interested in covering this conflict accurately, it needs to start by acknowledging that Israeli aggression and Hamas aggression are not motivated by the same end goals. Israel wants peace. Hamas wants genocide.
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Has the Libertarian moment finally arrived? on: August 10, 2014, 01:54:44 PM 
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / South China Sea-- Vietnam, on: August 10, 2014, 01:42:47 PM

ABOARD CSB-8003, in the South China Sea — As the large white Chinese ship closed in, the smaller Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel could only veer off, black exhaust billowing from its stack. The Vietnamese vessel had advanced to within 13 miles of the Chinese offshore oil rig, and the Chinese decided it could come no closer.

With the rig barely visible on the horizon but the Chinese ship looming close behind, the Vietnamese patrol boat, CSB-8003, blasted a two-minute recorded message in Chinese, from loudspeakers on the back of the boat. These waters belong to Vietnam, the message said, and China’s placement of the rig had “hurt the feelings of the Vietnamese people.”

About six hours after the encounter on July 15, one of the last in a two-and-a-half-month standoff over the rig known as HD 981, China began moving the rig north toward the Chinese island of Hainan and out of waters Vietnam considers its exclusive economic zone. Three weeks later, analysts are still debating whether China, facing international pressure, blinked in its standoff with Vietnam — or whether this was just a tactical retreat before a more aggressive campaign.

While Vietnam claimed success in forcing the departure of HD 981, China National Petroleum Corporation, which managed the project, said the rig had completed its exploration work and was moving as planned.

The relocation of the rig just ahead of the approach of a typhoon in the area also prompted speculation that the storm may have forced its early departure. But the $1 billion rig, which is owned by the state-run China National Offshore Oil Corporation, was moved to a spot about 60 miles southeast of Hainan Island that is also exposed to typhoons.

While the Vietnamese Coast Guard celebrated the departure of the Chinese rig, some officers said they were worried that the episode represented a more aggressive attitude by China.

“From the moment that they installed the rig near the islands, the Chinese began more and more and more attacks, in words and in actions,” said Lt. Col. Tran Van Tho of the Vietnam Coast Guard as he stood smoking a cigarette on the deck of CSB-8003. “Why? It is a part of a Chinese strategy to control the sea. This is a first step to try to make a new base to expand farther south. This not only threatens Vietnam, but the Philippines and other countries. This has been organized systematically, as part of a strategy. It is not random.”

Lyle J. Goldstein, an associate professor at the United States Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, said that China has long taken an assertive stance toward its claims in the South China Sea, but was now much more able to uphold them.

“If anything is changing it is that China has capabilities to enforce and explore more carefully and it has money to field the cutters — that to me is what is driving the situation,” he said.

Vietnam invited groups of foreign reporters to embed with its Coast Guard vessels in an effort to focus international attention on the standoff over the rig. On the water with CSB-8003, the superior numbers of the Chinese vessels were clear.

On its two-day trip from Da Nang in central Vietnam, CSB-8003 encountered some 70 Chinese vessels, including fishing boats, Coast Guard cutters, patrol ships from other Chinese maritime organizations and two vessels that the Vietnamese Coast Guard identified as Chinese Navy missile corvettes.

Vietnam says there were about four to six Chinese military vessels among the more than 100 Chinese ships that patrolled around the rig, along with the Chinese Coast Guard, other maritime agencies and dozens of fishing boats.

As recently as two years ago, many observers said China’s policy in the South China Sea was dominated by an array of poorly coordinated agencies.

Some encounters showed organizational ability, as when Chinese ships harassed the Impeccable, a United States Navy surveillance ship, in the South China Sea in 2009. But many analysts argued that the Chinese Navy, China Marine Surveillance, the Bureau of Fisheries Administration, local governments and state-owned energy companies operated with high levels of autonomy and fueled regional tensions as they sought to increase their own influence and opportunities.

The standoff over the rig shows how things have changed. “The idea that China lacks a coherent policy, that’s clearly not the case with this oil rig,” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “It shows a high degree of interagency coordination involving civilian maritime agencies, the People’s Liberation Army and the oil companies.”

Efforts to streamline China’s maritime law enforcement agencies saw significant advancement last year when four of them were joined under the State Oceanic Administration to form a unified Coast Guard.

The placement of the rig indicates the will of China’s leadership to push maritime claims, Mr. Storey said. “Clearly this was sanctioned at the highest level of the Chinese government,” he said. “This is another indication of how Xi Jinping has very quickly consolidated his power in China and is calling the shots.”

Chinese energy companies backed away from plans to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea after Vietnamese protests in 1994 and 2009. Now it is not so hesitant. HD 981 should be seen as a starting point for future exploration, said Su Xiaohui, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, a research institute run by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “China is sending out a signal to the related countries that it is legal and natural for China to conduct energy exploration and development in the South China Sea,” said Ms. Su.

The Chinese placement of the rig caught Vietnam off guard, and set off protests and riots targeting Chinese-owned factories in Vietnam. Factories owned by Taiwanese, Japanese, South Korean and Singaporean firms were also hit. Four Chinese workers at the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Plastics steel plant were killed by rioters in May.

The rig was first parked about 120 miles off the coast of Vietnam and 17 miles from the farthest southwest islet of the Paracels, islands held by China but claimed by Vietnam.

Both sides have exchanged accusations over who had been the aggressor in the standoff over the rig. In June, China said that over the first month of operations, Vietnamese ships had rammed Chinese ships 1,400 times. But Vietnam appears to have suffered the worst of the skirmishes at sea, with more than 30 of its vessels damaged in collisions during that same period.

The most severe clash was on May 26, when a Vietnamese fishing boat sank after a collision with a Chinese fishing boat. Video later released by Vietnam showed the much larger Chinese boat ramming the wooden-hulled Vietnamese vessel.

The movement of the rig to waters farther north will help defuse the conflict between Vietnam and China. But the broader issues over sovereignty in the South China Sea, and who has the rights to extract oil and gas in the region, remain far from resolved.

At talks among senior diplomats from the Asia-Pacific region on Saturday in Myanmar, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated a suggestion by the United States that countries in the region refrain from taking steps that would further heighten tensions in the South China Sea. “We need to work together to manage tensions in the South China Sea, and to manage them peacefully, and also to manage them on a basis of international law,” Mr. Kerry said at the regional forum of Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

China said it would consider proposals to resolve disputes, but said that China and Asean “had the ability and wisdom to jointly protect peace and stability in the South China Sea,” China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said, according to a statement posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The statement did not mention the United States, but in the past China has criticized Washington for getting involved in its maritime disputes with other countries. In addition to China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also claim parts of the South China Sea.

China announced last month that it would place four more rigs in the South China Sea, and Vietnam’s inability to block HD 981 will likely give China confidence about its ability to drill in contested locations. “I think China feels it got its point across,” said Bernard D. Cole, a retired United States Navy officer and a professor at the National War College. “I would not at all be surprised to see them do it again.”
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Propsects for Israel actually not bad , , , on: August 10, 2014, 09:45:30 AM
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: The End of NATO? on: August 10, 2014, 09:40:32 AM
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Putin Murders on: August 09, 2014, 11:04:52 PM
Reliability of this site completely unknown:
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 09, 2014, 07:26:19 PM
Click here to watch: Archbishop 'Hamas Fired Out of Our Church in Gaza'

A Catholic Archbishop ministering to Gaza’s minute Christian minority says Hamas terrorists forced him to allow them to use his church to fire rockets at Israel during the four week-long Operation Protective Edge. “Islam is the rule of this place and whatever Hamas says we must obey or face consequences,” Archbishop Alexios told The Christian Broadcasting Network. Alexios showed the reporter where Hamas terrorists used the roof of the center to fire rockets at Israel. Numerous Israeli UAV videos have shown similar images of rocket crews using mosques, schools, hospitals and other civilian structures as ammunition and gun nests, as well as launch sites – all war crimes according to the Geneva Conventions.

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Functioning as a tolerated Christian minority in an Islamic supremacist entity, some residents charge that Hamas has “imposed strict Taliban-style Islamic laws” on the populace, Muslim and Christian alike. However, Alexios allowed 2,000 Gazans to take refuge within the church compound during the fighting, according to the report. Hamas took over in Gaza, after a violent coup in 2007 against Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, led in the West Bank by Mahmoud Abbas.
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Well, that about covers it , , , on: August 09, 2014, 05:22:20 PM
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: August 09, 2014, 05:18:37 PM
Third post
241  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 9/21/2014 Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack on: August 09, 2014, 05:17:15 PM

Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack – September 21, 2014
Click Here To Download The Fighter Registration Form

Howl of Greeting:
The rhythm of the seasons is with us and its time for the "Summer Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack". On behalf of the Council of Elders of the Dog Brothers, Dog Brothers Inc. hereby cordially invites all people of good spirit to its "Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack" at 11:00AM on Sunday, September 21, 2014 at:

Gokor Chivichyan’s Hayastan MMA Academy
7299 Atoll Ave
North Hollywood, CA 91605

Google Map

Parking: Due to the rather small size of The Hayastan Academy’s parking lot most of you will be parking on surface streets. On a Sunday morning this should present no problem, but please plan your time accordingly.

Audience: The viewing experience here is the best indoor experience we have ever had. There are bleachers on two sides of the fight area and a balcony overlooking from a third side. The donation at the door will be $15. Please remember that this will be a good opportunity to pick up our DVDs, sticks, clothing and other items at special prices.

Audience Safety Issues:  Due to the nature of the event, we cannot guarantee your safety.  Sticks, and fights for that matter, may go flying into the crowd. Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the event. If a stick or a fight comes careening your way know that the fight has right of way– it is on you to get out of the way! If you are sitting in or near the front row, we will not make fun of you if you wear protective headgear! The same liability waiver that applies to the fighters applies to you too.

NO CAMERAS AT ALL, BE THEY STILL OR VIDEO.  Although in the past we have allowed photos, we have had some people take advantage of the increasing capabilities of technology to shoot video; therefore no cameras at all are allowed.  Anyone violating this policy will be asked to leave. We will have a professional camera person or two taking picture which will be made available to all at no cost.  If you see someone filming, please let us know!!! We are very appreciative when you help look out for us!

1)      Gathering Day is too busy a day for us to be dealing with paperwork.  Here is the fighter registration form. Click Here To Download The Fighter Registration Form Without fail it must be sent to us in advance of Gatheirng day and your name must be on the Registered Fighters List if you are to fight.  Your point of contact with regard with all such matters is 310-540-6853.

2)      Two sides of the fight area are padded walls, one side is a cage fight type fence, and the fourth side is a waist high version thereof. If this is your first time, take a look at the highlight clips from recent years to get an idea of what it looks like. Please note that our host Gokor takes VERY seriously the cleanliness and condition of his fight area. Therefore ONLY wrestling shoes (white soled preferred) or bare feet will be allowed. You will be required to remove them before exiting the fight area and put them back on upon returning to it, so bringing sandals of some sort of sandals along may be a good idea.

3)      Please note that such a place does not come cheap, and we must pay for insurance too and so ask for $40 from each fighter. 

4)      Concerning fight gear:  Please be sure to read “The Moth and the Flame” at  Concerning the fight knives see  Concerning aluminum knives:  With some knives that people have brought, we have had actual punctures.  THIS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS!  Therefore we ask that any knives you use have tips as rounded as these here: and  Of course if you do not have knives with rounded tips like these, we will be glad to sell you some wink

5)      Lining up your fights: Most fighters line up at least some of their fights in advance.  One good place to do this and to engage in conversation about the Gathering as it approaches is the thread at  Although due to the nature of Facebook itself posts there are more transitory, DBMA Facebook also is a good place for pre-fight chatter.

6)      Get creative! We encourage you to fight knife versus stick. Stick vs. knife has been one of perennial questions of the FMA, so let’s continue the research! Also, please feel free to hide a knife on your person and surprise your opponent with it during the fights. Remember that you may fight with weapons other than a stick if you can find someone willing to go against you. Please consider staff, double stick, and anything else. In order to more deeply explore certain variables, fighters may agree to "no grappling" rules. In staff and other heavy weapon fights the fighters may wear wrestling type ear guards under the fencing masks. 

7)      Women Fighters: Women may fight men in the knife fights only.

Cool   Also, from time to time I put ideas/themes out there for people to consider.  For example hidden knife or in the last few years I have mentioned “stick & knife”. There has been some really excellent growth in this regard and it has served well in lessening people rushing in willy nilly to clinch-ground fighting and thus paying more attention to their stick skills.  Good!

Continuing the theme of cultivating real stick skills, this year I would like to draw people’s attention to the jab.  Granted with the fencing masks the jab has less consequence than it would without (and the street is without headgear), but if I may be indulged in a moment of “In the old days” I would say that in the old days we had a number of people with wicked jabs so it most certainly can be done.  Jabs set things up and allow for a higher level with the stick.  Something I hope some people will think about , , ,
The Magic Words:

The MAGIC WORDS: "No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day. This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way!Real Contact Stickfighting is Dangerous and only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times. All copyright belongs to Dog Brothers Inc. CA law applies." © DBI

The Adventure continues!!!

 "Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact" (c)
Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the DogBrothers
President/Dog Brothers Inc.
242  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 9/21/2014 Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack on: August 09, 2014, 04:43:43 PM
Woof All:

This thread is for pre-fight chatter, lining up fights, practical questions, etc.

Crafty Dog
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Pilsudki's Europe on: August 09, 2014, 01:06:06 PM

 Pilsudski's Europe
Global Affairs
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 03:22 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan

Russia's geopolitical threat to Central and Eastern Europe should have everyone's mind rushing in the direction of a protean Polish revolutionary, statesman and military leader, Jozef Pilsudski, and his concept of the Intermarium -- Latin for "between the seas;" Miedzymorze in Polish. This was a belt of independent states from the Baltic to the Black seas that would work in unison against Russian tyranny from the east and German tyranny from the west. While geopolitics may be about the impersonal influence of geography upon international relations, human agency still applies, so that the idea of an individual Pole from the early 20th century could provide a means for defending freedom in our own era.

Pilsudski dominated Polish affairs from the middle of World War I until his death in 1935. In the words of the late British-educated academic Alexandros Petersen, Pilsudski was from a "staunchly Polonized" family of "disestablished nobility" that had held lands in present-day Lithuania and originally owed its position to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the great powers of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. The destruction of that colossal geopolitical force at the hands of invaders from both east and west provided the motivation behind Pilsudski's vision of a belt of small states to hold in check both Russia and Germany. It was not an altogether new idea. The British geographer Halford Mackinder had proposed something similar a few years earlier in 1919. But whereas Mackinder was only a well-known scholar writing in a book, Pilsudski was a dynamic political leader.

Pilsudski's vision was a product not only of his family history but also of his own bloody experience. He had saved Poland from invading Soviet forces in 1920 in the midst of a number of border wars and went on to become the primary founder of the Second Polish Republic in 1926. Pilsudski's belief in a multicultural Poland to encompass his own Lithuanian background played well with his expansive vision of this anti-Russian belt of states that was, in turn, a spiritual and territorial descendant of that vast tract of territory that had constituted the late medieval and early modern Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which stretched at its zenith from the shivering flatlands of northeastern Europe to the confines of the Ottoman Empire -- in present-day Ukraine.

Pilsudski's realization that the independence of the Baltic states, the Balkans and Ukraine was central to Poland's own security lives on today in the country's post-Cold War foreign policy. To wit, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has been publicly tireless and ever-present in pushing NATO and the European Union toward a tougher stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea. Of course, the European Union's expansion to include Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, together with their incorporation into NATO, has represented the partial institutionalization of Pilsudski's idea -- even if Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the countries of the Caucasus lie stranded in the neither-nor geopolitical landscape of the European Union's Eastern Partnership, which offers insufficient protection against the designs of Russia.

But while danger lurks in the east, the west is less worrisome. For Germany has emerged as a benevolent giant, satisfied with its borders and providing the engine for the European economy. Thus, despite Putin's Revanchism, the European security environment still contains more possibilities than at any time since some of those comparatively dull 19th century decades following the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna. Of course, the relative peace of the 19th century had lulled Europeans into the false sense of security common to all people who have lost their sense of the tragic. And because a sense of the tragic is necessary to avoid tragedy, the result was World War I.

Poland and Romania are two pivotal countries that need no lessons in cultivating the sense of the tragic, for both have long been borderlands between stronger states and imperial forces coming from the east and west. And it is Poland and Romania, the two largest NATO states in northeastern and southeastern Europe respectively, that are crucial to the emergence of an effective Intermarium to counter Russia. Together they practically link the Baltic with the Black Sea.

Though they appear distinctly separated on the current map (even as both countries can claim whole or partial membership in Mitteleuropa), the shadow of Poland has in the course of history crept well into Romanian lands. While a traveler must cross the winding Carpathians twice to get from one country's capital to the other, Poland and Romania have at times been closer than you might think. For example, in the Romanian town of Targu Neamt, I craned my neck up at the citadel that had been conquered by Polish forces under King John III Sobieski in 1691. Lionized by English poet John Milton and praised by military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, Sobieski waged war against the Moslem Turks far away to the south from his native Poland and Ukraine in epic campaigns that helped save the Austrian Habsburgs and thus the Christian West. Sobieski's distant forays southward toward the shadowlands of the Black Sea were certainly part of Pilsudski's mental map -- a map that is still critical to Europe's future as a liberal Western dynamo.

Indeed, during a recent visit to Romania, the president, the president's national security adviser and the prime minister all told me in separate meetings that Poland and Turkey were critical countries for Romania in light of the Ukrainian crisis. Throughout my stay in Bucharest, calls for closer relations with Warsaw and Ankara as part of an anti-Russian alliance were made explicit. While Pilsudski's vision of an Intermarium extended from Finland to Bulgaria, an expanded version fitted to 21st century geopolitical realities would naturally include Turkey and the Caucasus. Turkey is the geographical organizing principle for half of the Black Sea and Azerbaijan's vast hydrocarbon wealth gives it the financial and political leverage to keep Russia from wholly dominating the Caucasus, now that Armenia hosts thousands of Russian troops and Georgia is under threat.

The new Intermarium is still far from crystalizing. Turkey is compromised by its appetite for Russian natural gas via the Blue Stream pipeline. Bulgarian and Serbian politics are heavily influenced by Russian money, criminal networks and -- like Turkey -- the need for Russian natural gas. Romania looks south to Bulgaria and rather than see an ally, sees a weak, at times chaotic state trying to steer a middle path between Russia and the European Union. And while Romania sees Poland as a more powerful, more economically vibrant and strongly institutionalized version of itself -- one that cuts a larger profile in the world media -- Poland looks south to Romania and sees merely a burdensome, weaker and more corrupt state than itself.

Nevertheless, a trend is discernible. High-level meetings between the Intermarium countries have intensified, as the Pentagon and State Department act as hubs for all these countries' militaries, intelligence services and diplomatic corps to interact. Stronger U.S. support to Eastern and Central Europe must be matched by stronger bilateral ties between the countries themselves -- to say nothing of increased defense expenditures in the region. This is all a function of geography that Mackinder and especially Pilsudski were the first to address. Pilsudski knew from his own experience that geography is only destiny if you don't turn it to your advantage. The real balance of power should not be a cynical formulation of the status quo between America and Russia, but a bulwark of democracies blocking the path of tyranny.

Read more: Pilsudski's Europe | Stratfor
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244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Monitoring ISIL's "Flood" on: August 09, 2014, 12:43:35 PM
second post

 Monitoring the Islamic State's 'Flood'
Security Weekly
Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 03:03 Print Text Size

By Scott Stewart

The Islamic State recently released the second edition of its English-language Dabiq magazine to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan's month of fasting. The first edition of Dabiq, released near the beginning of Ramadan, was titled "The Return of Khilafah" to celebrate the Islamic State's declaration of a caliphate by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The second edition of the magazine was titled "The Flood" and had a twofold purpose. The first was to document the successes that the Islamic State had enjoyed on the battlefield during the month of Ramadan in both Iraq and Syria. The second was to use those successes to bolster the group's claim to be the true leader not only of the jihadist world but of all Muslims. Using the example of the prophet Noah to support its strictly dualistic ideology, the group argues that Muslims have the choice of either supporting the Islamic State or perishing as the group overwhelms the earth like Noah's flood.

A significant portion of the magazine is devoted to tying these two concepts together through a process known as mubahalah, a traditional Islamic process for resolving an intractable religious dispute in which the two parties ask Allah to bless the side telling the truth and curse the errant party. In a seven-part article titled "The Flood of the Mubahalah," the magazine outlines how the Islamic State's spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, invoked mubahalah in the dispute between his organization and its detractors, which include Jabhat al-Nusra and al Qaeda's current leadership under Ayman al-Zawahiri. The article claims mubahalah was invoked on two occasions: on Islamic dates corresponding to dates in March and April 2014. The article further claimed that Osama bin Laden and the rest of the former al Qaeda leadership had praised the Islamic state it established before the new leadership criticized it.

The editors of Dabiq argue that the Islamic State's gains on the battlefield since mubahalah was declared -- and specifically the "flood" it had unleashed on parts of Iraq and Syria during the month of Ramadan -- serve as proof that Allah blessed the Islamic State. The successes therefore prove that the Islamic State was on the right side of its conflict with al Qaeda and the other groups. Because of this, all Muslims are supposed to support the group. Obviously, such claims are sure to offend Muslims who do not support the Islamic State, but the group has shown repeatedly that it is not afraid to offend other Muslims.
Differences with al Qaeda

Even in the midst of claiming that events have proved that Allah has blessed the Islamic State, this edition of Dabiq also served to underscore some of the fundamental tactical differences between the group and al Qaeda.

In the foreword section to the second edition, the leadership of the Islamic State urged Muslims to perform hijra, or immigrate to the Islamic state from wherever they are currently living, whether in Muslim lands or lands controlled by infidels. The editors urged readers to "Rush to the shade of the Islamic State with your parents, siblings, spouses, and children. There are homes here for you and your families. You can be a major contributor towards the liberation of Makkah, Madinah, and al-Quds. Would you not like to reach Judgment Day with these grand deeds in your scales. (sic)" 

This highlights that the Islamic State in all its iterations leading up to its current form has always been a mass movement with ties to a specific section of geography. While al Qaeda was founded by a wealthy Saudi and designed to be a global, elite vanguard organization, Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad (the Islamic State's original name) was founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian street thug, and the organization reflected its founder's more regional focus along with his brutality and vicious hatred of Shia. The differences between the two organizations were clearly reflected in al-Zawahiri's letter to al-Zarqawi, a document the U.S. government released in October 2005.

In that letter, al-Zawahiri urged al-Zarqawi to refrain from high-profile hostage execution videos. "Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable... are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages," al-Zawahiri wrote. "You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the sheikh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular."

Al-Zawahiri also emphasized taking a pragmatic approach, rather than stubborn adherence to ideology, to achieve al Qaeda's goals. According to al-Zawahiri, if al Qaeda in Iraq was going to become a sustained force in the region that was capable of eventually creating an Islamic polity, it needed to gain popular support, tolerate the Shia, use the ideology card judiciously and understand that the bulk of Muslims (especially the ulema) do not share the jihadist ideology.

Over the past month, the Islamic State has published numerous videos of its fighters executing captured Iraqi soldiers and destroying Shiite mosques and shrines. The organization clearly has not changed its approach over the past decade despite the entreaties of figures such as al-Zawahiri. This intransigence has also been a significant contributor to the group's many disputes with other rebel groups in Syria.

By urging Muslims to immigrate to the territories it controls in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State demonstrated another difference from al Qaeda. For several years now, the al Qaeda core and its most effective regional franchise, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have been telling jihadists in the West to stay home and conduct attacks where they live rather than risk traveling to places such as Pakistan or Yemen to receive training at militant camps. These calls for grassroots operatives to conduct attacks in the West reflect not only the pressure these groups have been under in Pakistan and Yemen but also al Qaeda's fixation on attempting to strike Western countries that support the rulers of Muslim countries.

While the Islamic State conducted a multitude of terrorist and insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, it has not attempted to strike outside of its home region. Even its terrorist attacks outside of Iraq and Syria have been in places such as Jordan, al-Zarqawi's home country, or Lebanon. When U.S. forces pulled out of Iraq, the Islamic State continued attacking the Iraqi government and eventually became involved in the civil war in Syria. It has remained focused on fighting its enemies inside the region -- including the Syrian and Iraqi regimes and other rebel groups -- but has not attempted attacks in the United States or Europe.
Terrorism, Insurgency and Beyond

In the Gauging the Jihadist Movement series published in December 2013, Stratfor noted that jihadists are militants and that they use various types of military operations, including terrorism and insurgent tactics. The al Qaeda core was always heavily focused on terrorism, but as a small vanguard organization, it was never large enough to become a meaningful insurgent force or to establish an Islamic polity itself.

Many of the regional jihadist groups that joined al Qaeda's global constellation, such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have progressed beyond terrorism into insurgency. But most of these attempts have not fared well and have been put down by the host country with outside assistance. Even al Qaeda in Iraq, a predecessor of the Islamic State that was aligned with al Qaeda until February, was heavily damaged and nearly destroyed after it moved from terrorism to insurgency in Iraq and declared an Islamic state in Iraq in 2006. It was only after the U.S. drawdown and withdrawal from Iraq and the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011 that the group managed to regain its strength and again assert its claim to rule an Islamic state. It has become a formidable military force, capable not only of conducting terrorist operations and hit-and-run insurgent attacks but also of taking and holding territory, something the al Qaeda core group has never been able to do.

So far, the Islamic State has been able to claim its battlefield successes as proof of Allah's blessing. However, it has not yet received the global recognition and acceptance it hoped its declaration of a caliphate would produce. The number of jihadist groups swearing allegiance to the Islamic State has remained quite limited to date, and the publishing of the second edition of Dabiq does not seem to have changed that reality.

Political changes appear to be happening in Iraq that could very well result in increasing cooperation between the Iraqi government, the Sunni tribal sheikhs and the Iraqi Kurds. Once this happens, it will be important to watch and see if the Islamic State is able to defend the territorial gains it has made in Iraq over the past few months -- much less continue its efforts to overwhelm the world like a flood.

Read more: Monitoring the Islamic State's 'Flood' | Stratfor
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245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Military Aid to Kurds likely to be limited on: August 09, 2014, 12:39:42 PM


The United States, Turkey and Iran are re-evaluating military support for Iraq's federal Kurdish region as Islamist State militants continue their attacks on Kurdish targets. Discussions of aid and direct military support for the Kurds are more complicated than similar decisions about arming and supporting the Iraqi army. The Kurdistan Regional Government's status as a federal region, along with regional concerns relating to Kurdish independence and militancy in neighboring Turkey and Iran, will limit the degree to which Washington and regional capitals are willing to arm Iraq's Kurds to engage Islamic State militants beyond limited airstrikes.


Iraq's Kurdish region faces serious geographic challenges when it comes to defense. The territory is roughly crescent-shaped. The interior of the crescent, which faces Iraq's disputed territories, starts as flat, open desert and steadily elevates into hills, ultimately transitioning to mountains that anchor the borders with Turkey and Iran. Much of the region's critical energy infrastructure, both within the Kurdistan Regional Government proper and in the disputed regions surrounding Kirkuk, lies near areas of Iraqi territory now claimed by Islamic State militants and in open desert. Critical cities such as Dohuk, Arbil and Kirkuk are also nestled either within or close to the disputed territories on the crescent's interior border.

Any advance by the Islamic State into peshmerga-controlled territory immediately puts the militants dangerously close to these strategic areas because of the lack of geographic depth in this highly contested borderland. Major urban centers, including the regional capital, Arbil, and Sulaimaniyah, and the region's energy infrastructure already have a more robust Kurdish peshmerga defensive presence. But Islamic State militants will continue to launch opportunistic strikes along the Kurdistan Regional Government's long southern border, leveraging their mobility to launch surprise attacks where possible against Kurdish forces along the border.

Iraq's Population Density By Ethnic and Sectarian Divisions

Click to Enlarge

This puts the defending peshmerga at a disadvantage. They have to protect an arcing border that stretches for more than 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles), forcing the peshmerga to travel farther to defend their positions while the Islamic State enjoys interior lines of movement. Additionally, the open land of the desert plays to the Islamic State's strength: mobility. The militants can use their fast-traveling technicals -- pickup trucks outfitted with heavy weaponry -- and mass quickly on any weak points along the defensive perimeter. This problem is exacerbated for the peshmerga because they are defending recently gained territory and are thus readjusting their entire security presence to consolidate places in Kirkuk and Diyala provinces, which were under an immediate threat from the Islamic State earlier in the conflict. With the peshmerga overstretched, the Islamic State took advantage of these security gaps and pushed in unexpected directions from the Mosul area and areas farther west.

Turkey, Iran and the United States each have a fundamental interest in preventing a large-scale assault by Islamic State militants on Iraq's federal Kurdish region. International support for the Kurds, somewhat in conjunction with Baghdad, is likely to continue focusing on preventing a wholesale collapse of the Kurdish region or the loss of large swaths of Kurdish territory to Islamic State militants. Short of this threat, which Stratfor still considers to be unlikely at this time, additional outside assistance to Kurdish forces is likely to be limited to airdrops of humanitarian aid and targeted airstrikes against Islamic State targets.

The Americans and Turks are also likely to consider hitting Islamic State artillery positions. It will be far harder for the Islamic State to attack well-entrenched troops if it loses its artillery. There is also ongoing intelligence sharing and coordination, but support will consist of the minimum necessary to enable the Kurds to protect their core territory, and the United States and Turkey are unlikely to commit forces for combat. However, this support could expand into the realm of financial support, ammunition and logistics and combat-enabling hardware, such as night vision equipment and body armor.

Both Turkey and Iran are reluctant to give Kurdish forces heavy arms and supplies given their respective concerns regarding domestic Kurdish separatist groups. The United States is also keen to avoid alienating Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Arab groups, which are currently locked in difficult political negotiations in Baghdad. Ankara, Tehran and Washington will provide minor assistance geared toward preventing the establishment of an Islamic State launching ground in the Kurdish region for strikes against Turkish, Iranian or energy targets, but there is a clear consensus against providing enough material help to support future Kurdish independence claims or embolden the Kurds to engage Arab Iraqi competitors with more robust conventional military capabilities.

Peshmerga forces are scrambling again to reorient and establish blocking positions in critical areas. When able to concentrate forces, and with foreign support and assurances, the peshmerga will have the advantage. Moreover, deeper into Kurdish territory the terrain becomes more rugged and favors defensive positions. However, the Islamic State still has its mobility, shorter lines and a long border to take advantage of, and many oil blocks are close enough to be threatened by potential raids.       

Read more: Concerns About Emboldening Iraqi Kurds Will Limit Military Aid | Stratfor
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246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The End of Consensu Politics in China on: August 09, 2014, 12:35:53 PM
 The End of Consensus Politics in China
Geopolitical Weekly
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 03:02 Print Text Size

By John Minnich

Chinese President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign is the broadest and deepest effort to purge, reorganize and rectify the Communist Party leadership since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping two years later. It has already probed more than 182,000 officials across numerous regions and at all levels of government. It has ensnared low-level cadres, mid-level functionaries and chiefs of major state-owned enterprises and ministries. It has deposed top military officials and even a former member of the hitherto immune Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest governing body. More than a year after its formal commencement and more than two years since its unofficial start with the downfall of Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, the campaign shows no sign of relenting.

It is becoming clear that this campaign is unlike anything seen under Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Both carried out anti-corruption drives during their first year in office and periodically throughout their tenures as a means to strengthen their position within the Party and bureaucracy and to remind the public, however impotently, that Beijing still cared about its well being. But that was housekeeping. This appears to be different: longer, stronger, more comprehensive and more effective.

With this in mind, we ask: What is the fundamental purpose of Xi's anti-corruption campaign? An attempt to answer this question will not tell us China's political future, but it will tell us something about Xi's strategy -- not only for consolidating his personal influence within the Party, government and military apparatuses, but also and more important, for managing the immense social, economic, political and international pressures that are likely to come to a head in China during his tenure. Getting to the heart of the anti-corruption campaign -- and therefore understanding its inner logic and direction -- provides insights on the organization and deployment of political power in China and how those things are changing as the Party attempts to remake itself into an entity capable of ushering China safely through the transformation and crises to come.

The Campaign Continues

The announcement July 29 of a formal investigation into retired Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang marked something of an end to the first major phase of Xi's anti-corruption campaign. By all accounts, Zhou was one of the most powerful men in China throughout the 2000s. During his tenure on the Standing Committee, Zhou controlled the country's domestic security apparatus, a pillar of the Chinese government's power. Prior to that, he had served as Party secretary of Sichuan province, an important inland industrial center and breadbasket with historically strong regionalist tendencies. And before Sichuan, Zhou chaired state-owned China National Petroleum Corp., the country's most powerful energy firm and the direct descendent of the Ministry of Petroleum. Zhou was known to sit at the apex of at least these three power bases, and his influence likely extended deep into many more, making him not only a formidable power broker but also, at least in the case of his oil industry ties, a major potential obstacle to reform. Certainly, Zhou and his vast networks of influence and patronage were not the sole targets of the Xi administration's crackdown, but he and his associates, including former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, widely seen as an early competitor of Xi, formed its central axis.

Now begins another phase. There are indications that it will center on the military. There are other signs that it will target Shanghai, the primary power base of Jiang Zemin and the locus of financial sector reform in China. Further neutralization of Zhou's allies in energy and public security will likely be necessary, too, as the Xi administration seeks to accelerate market-oriented reforms in the oil and natural gas sectors and to reinforce its internal security footprint in peripheral regions like Xinjiang as well as the Han Core. But ultimately, it is unclear which individuals and networks will anchor the next phase. The possibilities are as numerous as the Xi administration's myriad near- and medium-term policy goals.

The question of who or what will be targeted next is subordinate to that of why. Not why, specifically, they will be targeted, but why the campaign must and will continue. This brings us back to our question regarding the fundamental purpose of the anti-corruption campaign. It may be impossible to divine, beyond mere speculation, its future on a tactical level -- that is, what will come in three, five or eight months' time. But the direction of the campaign so far, combined with other actions by Xi, such as the formation of a unified National Security Council chaired by Xi himself and his apparent wresting of the reins of economic and social reform from Premier Li Keqiang, suggest that some other and deeper shift is underway, one for which the anti-corruption campaign is at once a vehicle and a symptom. Stratfor believes this shift involves nothing less than an attempt to rework not only the way the Communist Party operates but also the foundations of its political legitimacy.

To understand why, we look first not at Xi and what he has done thus far but at China and what it will undergo over the next decade. This will give us a sense of the external constraints and pressures of which Xi's administration is no doubt aware and to which it has no option but to respond. These constraints and pressures, more than any other factor, will shape Xi's actions and the Communist Party's evolution in the years to come.
A World Constrained

Over the next decade, the defining constraints on China will emanate from within. They are fundamentally economic in nature, but they cannot be disassociated from politics and society.

China is in the midst of an economic transformation that is in many ways unprecedented. The core of this transformation is the shift from a growth model heavily reliant on low-cost, low value-added exports and state-led investment into construction to one grounded in a much greater dependence on high value-added industries, services and above all, domestic consumption. China is not the first country to attempt this. Others, including the United States, achieved it long ago. But China has unique constraints: its size, its political system and imperatives, and its profound regional geographic and social and economic imbalances. These constraints are exacerbated by a final and perhaps greatest limit: time. China is attempting to make this transition, one which took smaller and more geographically, socially and politically cohesive countries many decades to achieve, in less than 20 years.

The bulk of this work will take place over the next 10 years at most, and more likely sooner, not because the Xi administration wants it to, but because it must. The global financial crisis in 2007-08 brought China's decadeslong export boom cycle to a premature close. For the past six years, the Chinese government has kept the economy on life support in the form of massively expanded credit creation, government-directed investment into urban and transport infrastructure development and, most important, real estate construction. In the process, local governments, banks and businesses across China have amassed extraordinary levels of debt. Outstanding credit in China is now equivalent to 251 percent of the country's gross domestic product, up from 147 percent in 2008. Local governments alone owe more than $3 trillion. It is unknown -- deliberately so, most likely -- what portion of outstanding debts are nonperforming, but it is likely far higher than the official rate of 1 percent.

Despite claims that China's investment drive was and is irresponsible -- and certainly there are myriad anecdotal cases of gross misallocation of capital -- it nonetheless fulfills the essential role of jumpstarting the country's effort to "rebalance" to a new, more urban and more consumption-based economic model. But the problem, again, is time. China's real estate sector is slowing. Sales, home prices and market sentiment are falling, even in the face of continued expansion of the overall credit supply. The days of high growth in the housing construction sector are numbered and prices, along with overall activity, are on a downward trend -- one that can and will be hedged by continued high levels of investment and credit expansion, but not one that can be stopped for long. Real estate and related construction activity will remain the crucial component of China's economy for the foreseeable future, but they will no longer be the national economic growth engines they were between 2009 and 2011.

This means that in the next few years, China faces inexorable and potentially very rapid decline in the two sectors that have underpinned economic growth and social and political stability for the past two or more decades: exports and construction. And it does so in an environment of rapidly mounting local government and corporate debt, rising wages and input costs, rising cost of capital and falling return on investment (exacerbated by new environmental controls and efforts to combat corruption) and more. Add to these a surge in the number of workers entering the workforce and beginning to build careers between the late 2010s and early 2020s, the last of China's great population boom generations, and the contours emerge of an economic correction and employment crisis on a scale not seen in China since Deng came to power.

The solution, it would seem, lies in the Chinese urban consumer class. But here, once more, time is China's enemy. Chinese household consumption is extraordinarily weak. In 2013, it was equivalent to only 34 percent of gross domestic product, compared to 69-70 percent in the United States, 61 percent in Japan, 57 percent in Germany and 52 percent in South Korea. In fact, it has fallen by two percentage points since 2011, possibly on the back of the anti-corruption campaign, which has curbed spending by officials that appears to have been erroneously counted as private consumption. There is reason to believe that household consumption is somewhat stronger than the statistics let on, but it is not nearly strong enough to pick up the slack from China's depressed export sector and depressive construction industries. China's low rates of urbanization relative to advanced industrial economies underscore this fundamental incapacity.

Whatever the Chinese government's stated reform goals, it is very difficult to see how economic rebalancing toward a consumption- and services-based economy succeeds within the decade. It is very difficult to see how exports recover. And it is very difficult, but slightly less so, to see how the government maintains stable growth through continued investment into housing and infrastructure construction, especially as the real estate market inevitably cools. This leaves us with a central government that either accepts economic recession or persists in keeping the economy alive for the sake of providing jobs but at risk of peril to its reform initiatives, banks and local governments. The latter is ugly and very likely untenable under the current political model, which for three decades has staked its claim to legitimacy in the promise of stable employment, growth and rising material prosperity. The former is absolutely untenable under the current political model.

The pressures stemming from China's economy -- and emanating upward through Chinese society and politics -- will remain paramount over the next 5-10 years. The above has described only a very small selection of the internal social and economic constraints facing China's government today. It completely neglects public anger over pollution, the myriad economic and industrial constraints posed by both pollution and pervasive low-level corruption, the impact of changes in Chinese labor flows and dynamics, rising education levels and much more. It completely neglects the ambivalence with which many ordinary Chinese regard the Communist Party government.

It also neglects external pressures and risks, whether economic or military. What would another global economic crisis and recession do to China's already hobbled export sector? What would a prolonged spike in oil prices -- the result, perhaps, of deepening crises in Russia or Iraq -- mean for Chinese industry and its change to China's growing army of car drivers? What impact will structural changes in the East Asian and world systems, such as Japan's attempt at a national economic and military revival, have on China's overseas economic and maritime interests, or on Chinese society's confidence in the strength of its military and government? The potential risks, many of them of moderate to high probability, are legion. It takes only one to materialize to dramatically reduce the likelihood that the Communist Party, as currently constituted, survives China's transformation.
The Old Model Breaks Down

Xi knows this. He and his advisers know China's virtually insurmountable challenges better than anyone. They know how little time China has, how fragile the Party's political legitimacy -- its claim to the Mandate of Heaven -- has become over the past three decades and how great the consequences of inaction will be. But they also know how much potentially greater are the consequences of failure. Knowing all these things, they are acting to reconstitute the Party one cautious step at a time.

The anti-corruption campaign is one of those steps. It serves many overlapping functions: to clear out potential opponents, ideological or otherwise; to consolidate executive power and reduce bureaucratic red tape so as to ease the implementation of reform; to remind the Chinese people that the Communist Party has their best interests at heart; and to make it easier to make tough decisions.

Underlying and encompassing these, we see the specter of something else. The consensus-based model of politics that Deng built in order to regularize decision-making and bolster political stability during times of high growth and that effectively guided China throughout the post-Deng era is breaking down. It can no longer hold in the face of China's transformation and the crises this will bring. Simply put, now that its post-1978 contract with Chinese society -- a social contract grounded in the exchange of growth for stability -- is up, the Party risks losing the public support and political legitimacy that this contract undergirded. A new and more adaptive but potentially much less stable model is being erected, or resurrected, from within the old. This model is grounded more firmly in the personality and prestige of the president and more capable, or so Chinese leaders seem to hope, of harnessing and managing the Chinese nation through what could well be a period of turmoil.

This does not necessarily mean a return to Imperial China, nor does it mean a return to the days and methods of the Great Helmsman, Mao. It doesn't even mean the new model will succeed, even remotely. What it means will be decided only by the specific interplay of structure and contingency in the unfolding of history. But it is this transformation that serves as the fundamental, if latent, purpose for Xi's anti-corruption campaign.

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Stratfor Asia-Pacific Analyst John Minnich.

Read more: The End of Consensus Politics in China | Stratfor

247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: August 09, 2014, 11:03:24 AM
Please post that at
248  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: August 09, 2014, 10:57:04 AM
Not much of a police chief either it would appear , , ,
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIL beheading Christian children on: August 08, 2014, 03:58:32 PM
250  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Police Chief points gun at city council member on: August 08, 2014, 03:22:32 PM
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